Do I deserve kevlar?

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my beastly MR Explorer. By the time I lash in the paddles, poles, float bags and sailing gear, the thing has to be pushing 100 pounds. And that, my friends, is a chore to flip up onto my shoulders and skip down portage trails longer than say, two miles.

I was thinking of kevlar, but I hit rocks more than occasionally, and often the take-out is clogged with other boats and I have to hit the beach bow-first, then drag it up on shore. Is kevlar really up to that abuse or am I looking at a maintenance headache with gel-coat and all that? Should I just stick with my rubbermaid tub?

Weight vs. durability

– Last Updated: Apr-09-08 10:22 AM EST –

After I posted this message I reread your post and realized that you are talking about canoes, not kayaks, so what follows is a little off track.

I've never owned a polyethylene boat, but I'm hoping to someday get a polyethylene VCP Avocet for playing in the rocks. My first two boats were fiberglas Nordkapps; nice stout layups. Then I got a kevlar Eggemoggin. I never appreciated the weight savings and it didn't hold up to abuse well. After three years it was a galaxy of star cracks and had a couple of soft spots where the thin resin overflexed. After it was demoted to my guest boat I loaned it to some friends of my daughter and it came back trashed. (They were a nice family and I'm sure the damage was unintentional, they just didn't appreciate how to treat a composite boat.)

I like composite boats, but I will never buy another kevlar boat. And I will always pay for the heaviest fiberglass layup available. I'm not saying that this uncontrovertible truth to be embraced by everyone. I'm a bit of a brut, strong back weak mind; my gear tends to not hold up well. For someone who is gentler with their gear, thinks about what they are doing and does not abuse it, kevlar or carbon may be a good idea if weight is an issue.

RavensJester told me

– Last Updated: Apr-09-08 10:32 AM EST –

I was 15 years too young for a kevlar boat. That was last year. I think I'm about 3 or 4 years younger than you. Come back in 10 or 11 years and ask again. HAW
I lust after his Bell Chestnut though, and when I hit 62 I am going to go pay Kaz a visit, and get one of his beautiful OC-1's, as well as a Swift Raven.

shear kevlar
Kevlar is very strong but it lacks shear strength which means it is a bit brittle vs other strengths. In other words it can crack more easily than any other problem. A combination carbonite and kevlar goes a long way to solving this and makes for a great hull. Unless you paddle in big WW and hit a lot of large boulders head on. If that’s the case, a paddler probably needs to stop and learn a bit more before continuing. I’d say we all deserve carbon and kevlar. It is so much better for paddling not to mention portaging.

that’s the one

– Last Updated: Apr-09-08 11:03 AM EST –

I lust after. Bells "blackcrystal". Ravens seems to be holding up quite well, poling the same rivers I do. I see some superficial scratches on his, but nothing below the surface.

I own a Wenonah Kevlar Champlain.
It has been on many trips loaded with gear and dogs. I had the same concern about Kevlar, but I find my fears were unfounded. It has held up great on a variety of lakes and rivers. However, I definitely wouldn’t take it on a low river with rock gardens. It doesn’t slide over the rocks like a plastic canoe; rather, it sticks on the rocks like an aluminum canoe. It’s easy to repair with epoxy. When I scrape up the bow, I just add some epoxy to patch the scrapes. Unless I was mostly planning on paddling low rivers with rock gardens, I definitely would opt for a lighter Kevlar canoe.

No You Don’t
What you deserve son, is a poly 3 Disco and the hernia to go with it.

Don’t you have a house to build? Don’t make me call your wife!

yuk yuk yuk

yup that’s the ticket
local shop has some “specially lightened” former rental disco 164’s for cheap. I’ll bet after this season they’ll be even lighter :-).

Light and tough
Check out twintex, used by esquif.

Also, Royalite is basically royalex, only not as much of it. It seems to make sense to buy a royalite canoe every 15 years instead of a royalex canoe every 20, given the weight savings.

kevlar canoe
Just before you skip down that two mile portage,I suggest you stand back,take a deep breath,then consider a real good canoe course,you may just have a whole new apprecation

for the fine art of canoeing,if not you might want to look at a good quality paddle boat.

You’ll regret it as a waste of money

Did I say shear strength ? I meant tensile strength. Sorry !

How lite is kevlar?
My Kevlar Expedition Osprey has to run close to 45 lbs (I’m guessing) That’s not terrifically light for a 15’ solo even in Royalex. It is pretty tough but I still can’t bring myself to abuse it the way I do my Royalex boats.

My Malecite is bigger but weighs about the same as the Osprey. It’s a lake boat. There are no rocks in the lake are there?

My J200 I’ll guess is around 30 lbs. Amazingly light for an 18’ 6" canoe. The only time that ever got near a rock I put a little gash in it. That boat’s a delicate flower.

Kevlar canoe
For tripping I’d take a kevlar or other high quality, composite canoe over a Royalex any day. I own Royalex boats and use them for HD whitewater where I expect to pound a few boulders that I didn’t see. For anything else, composite is the way to go. Most tripping boats were designed with fine lines that don’t mold well in rubber. When the designs are “translated” into Royalex moldable shapes, the performance drops off markedly. The owner ends up putting more effort into every stroke. Turns are not as crisp. It’s kind of like driving a high quality car with bald tires and weak shocks.

If you use/misuse a composite boat, it will become scratched. The surface may get chipped. If you hit something hard enough you might even crack it. With Royalex, you may scrape it, dent it, puncture it etc. Not a great deal of difference. The good thing is that within reason, a good composite boat is repairable and if you don’t care too much about the appearance, it will perform just as well, scratched and chipped as it did when new and shiney.

Save your back and add some pleasure to your paddling with a good composite boat.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

Real men paddle polyethylene
Couldn’t resist…this should rock some boats.

Paddlin’ on


Composite vs RX
It really comes down to your current physical condition.

If you are strong and plan on getting stronger, then RX makes perfect sense: you’ll always be able to lift it and overpower the drag caused by oil canning.

Alternatively, a modern composite, ideally a carbon / Kevlar combo will be easier to tote and drive through the water.

Do you deserve Kevlar?

Plastic vs. Kevlar/Carbon boats
On rolling rivers going downhill , you can’t avoid all the rocks, sooner or later you are going through them, over them, up against them … Superlink, Polylink, Roylex, etc. (plastic), are rock eaters and that’s what they do best … Kevlar/Graphite Carbon fiber boats are lighter, have superior handling qualitys, stiffer and get beat up a lot worse in the rocks … someone said they stick to rocks also (not good in the swift stuff, go side ways and roll over, oh crap !! ) … what are you doing with a sail on a dowhill bubbling river anyway ?? … ps., don’t skip , walk …

Mr Flukes Canoe Usage

Mr. Fluke tends to take some fairly challenging trips. Trips that might include some down river runs of fair intensity as well as some openwater crossings, a good bit of upstream poling work and some long portages to boot. His MR Explorer has served him well to date.

A specialized lake or river tripper most likely would not.

But a lighter more efficient boat that could still stand up to conditions would not hurt.

And if he drags it over rocky beaches
he doesn’t deserve fiberglass, poly or wood either!